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Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach has selected Pueblo Fire Chief Christopher Riley to be the new head of the city’s fire department. Riley has served as Pueblo’s Chief since 2006. According to a release from the city, Riley will earn $145,000 per year.  He’s expected to start September 9th, pending approval from City Council mid-August.  Former Fire Chief Rich Brown retired in the spring. The city says 40 people applied for the position, with no applications coming from internal candidates. Interim Chief Tommy Smith will return to his post as Deputy Chief of Support Services.

Shrinking Aquifers in the San Luis Valley

Jul 29, 2013
Maeve Conran

In early July, Colorado designated 14 counties "primary natural disaster areas" due to agricultural losses caused by the recent and ongoing drought.  Several of those counties are in the San Luis Valley in south central Colorado.  Farmers there are now eligible for low interest emergency loans, but as KGNU’s Maeve Conran reports, that may not be enough for this agricultural hub, which is facing a long term water crisis that could permanently affect the entire valley. 

The federal government has approved a major disaster declaration for the Royal Gorge Fire in Fremont County.  The declaration means federal aid is available to deal with the effects, including unemployment benefits for Royal Gorge Bridge & Park employees and others who are out of work after this summer’s wildfire, who aren’t otherwise eligible for state jobless benefits.  Aid is also available for emergency work and the repair or replacement of damaged facilities. Governor John Hickenlooper’s office says a similar request for the Black Forest Fire is pending.

Dust on the Rise in Colorado and the West

Jul 26, 2013

Living near the mountains, it’s easy to see changes in nature, especially in the snow. In recent years, dust from desert areas like Utah has coated some of the area’s snowpack. Scientists in Boulder say the amount of dust being blown into Colorado and throughout the West has increased over the last two decades. They measured calcium in rainfall to come up with their findings. Jason Neff is associate professor of geology at CU-Boulder and coauthor of a recent dust study. He told Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen the escalation of dust emissions is due to several factors.

Raising Longterm Health Concerns over 'Fracking'

Jul 24, 2013

A former president of the Colorado Medical Society calls the current hydraulic fracturing boom in the state’s oil and gas industry an “experiment in motion” for the public at large – one that could lead to higher rates of cancer and other illnesses over the next 10 to 15 years.

Colorado Springs City Council voted yesterday to opt-out of recreational marijuana sales after listening to public comments and a plea from Mayor Steve Bach to opt-out. Bach called it a jobs killer, and cited concerns from the military.  Bach also said it’s important to take a regional approach, mentioning other communities who have opted out of recreational marijuana sales like El Paso County, Monument, and Green Mountain Falls.  If council decided not to opt-out, they would have voted on a moratorium.  But Bach pressed for the ban.

 

The American farmer is getting older. Most recent census data shows the average age is 57. And while that tells us who is farming now, it also shows who’s not. While the farming community continues to age, fewer young people are filling the ranks. Harvest Public Media’s Luke Runyon asks the question: Do young people even want to farm anymore?

The quick answer is yes, just not in the same numbers as they used to. And surveys indicate many of them don’t want to farm in conventional ways.

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder will begin mailing ballots in mid-August to registered voters in Senate District 11 for the upcoming recall election. A petition requesting the recall of Democratic State Senator John Morse was approved by a judge earlier this week. The ballot will pose two issues; one asking if Morse should be recalled. The second allows the voter to choose a successor candidate.  In order for that vote to count, the first issue must not be skipped.  Nearly 69,000 people are registered to vote in this election.  Ballots are due by 7 PM, Sept. 10.

The Obama administration launched an initiative Friday aimed at reducing the risk of wildfire to water supplies in the West. As KUNC's Grace Hood reports, Colorado will be one of six states to see pilot projects.

Flows of ash and debris into streams after a wildfire can be damaging to the local water supply. Aiming to mitigate this problem, the US Departments of Agriculture and Interior signed a memorandum of understanding Friday. USDA Chief Tom Vilsack:

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The El Paso County Sheriff’s office is looking into two fires in Fox Run Park, which is east of Interstate 25 off Baptist Road. The fires are considered separate incidents, but are both considered arson. Anyone with information about the fires should call the El Paso County Sheriff’s office at 719-390-5555. The department asks residents to report any suspicious activity, and to remain aware while in the area. Fox Run Park is just west of the Black Forest Fire burn scar.  Last month’s fire burned more than 14,000 acres and destroyed nearly 500 homes.

Morse, Giron Recall Elections Set for September 10th

Jul 18, 2013

A recall effort is moving forward to oust two Democratic state lawmakers over their support for gun control laws. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

Colorado River the Subject of Senate Hearing

Jul 17, 2013

The Colorado River and its future imbalances were the focus of a Senate hearing in Washington DC yesterday. The river supplies water for cities and farms in seven states and parts of Mexico. Lawmakers went over a 2012 study that projects water demand will outpace supply in the coming decades. Aspen Public Radio's Marci Krivonen reports.

Applications are due tomorrow for state money to help with wildfire mitigation projects. As KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin reports, there are other goals for the grant program as well.

Preliminary estimates show insurance companies will pay almost $300 million dollars to homeowners affected by the Black Forest Fire. About 3,600 auto and homeowner insurance claims have been filed since the June wildfire, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. But Executive Director Carole Walker expects that number will grow.

Magazine Law Injunction Declared Unneeded

Jul 11, 2013
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A group of sheriffs aiming to overturn new gun laws are happy with language they say clears up confusion. Yesterday, attorneys for the two sides came to an agreement on the measure that limits magazine rounds to fifteen. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

Judge to Consider Challenges to New Gun Laws

Jul 10, 2013
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A lawsuit filed by more than 50 Colorado sheriffs challenging two new gun laws is scheduled to go in front of a judge today. The laws went into effect July 1st. Now, an attorney representing the sheriffs is asking for the parts of the law setting limits on gun magazines be put on hold. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

The Pipeline Fire on Fisher’s Peak started yesterday and is burning in steep, rocky terrain. Multiple units responded from in and around the Trinidad region, but officials say it’s been difficult to access the fire. The active fire has shown extreme activity on the entire perimeter of the blaze, though no evacuations have been ordered.

Nearly 50 officers and precinct leaders with the El Paso County Republican Party voted today to nominate Bernie Herpin in the Senate District 11 recall effort of Democrat John Morse. Herpin received 30 votes, while candidate Jaxine Bubis received 18. Bubis is expected to withdraw from the race after the two signed an agreement that would name one person as the GOP nominee. According to a press release from the El Paso County Republican Party, the county’s Clerk and Recorder oversaw the process at the expense of the party.

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With the passage last year of Amendment 64, Cities and counties around Colorado are deciding whether to allow recreational marijuana shops and grow operations within their boundaries. Denver City Council said yes. El Paso County said no. The city of Pueblo passed a moratorium, deciding, in effect, to decide later. Colorado Springs City Council discussed the question yesterday, and as KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports, no consensus emerged.

As the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, last month, in many ways, the gay rights movement seems to be pushing forward faster than many had anticipated. Some are already turning toward other complex issues, like gender. This month’s Western Skies brings a variety of community perspectives on an issue that can confuse even those who study it. Please note, some content may be considered unsuitable for sensitive listeners.

You can listen to the full episode here:

Western Skies is a collaboration between KRCC News and The Big Something.

The devastating 2002 wildfire season generated public discussion about the need for treatments to fix our dangerously overgrown forests. A decade later, the Front Range has been hit with consecutive record-setting fire seasons, which has a lot of Colorado residents wondering why more of that treatment hasn’t happened. In this story that originally aired in April, KRCC’s Michelle Mercer looks into the status of forest treatment on the Front Range. 

In 2012, the U.S. military’s suicide rate surpassed combat deaths. Clinical Psychologist Craig Bryan has made suicide prevention his mission. This January, Dr. Bryan’s research brought him to Colorado Springs’ Fort Carson, where he was conducting his second study on mental health treatments. KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin sat down then to talk about his research–and how the very characteristics that make an effective soldier can also lead to increased suicide risk.

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Amendment 64 voted into law last year decriminalized recreational marijuana in Colorado for adults 21 and over. Now Colorado Springs, like local governments around the state, has about three months to decide whether to regulate retail marijuana sales or to ban such shops within city limits. As KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports, City Council yesterday heard both sides at a Town Hall meeting.

Wildfires and Climate Change Perception

Jun 28, 2013

Though wildfires have been definitively connected to climate change, megafires in the West haven’t shifted public opinion as drastically as environmentalists might hope.

 

Researchers have found that repeated wildfires in the same region do tend to shift public opinion about climate change, so with back to back summers of megafires the Pikes Peak region may see greater interest in the effects of increased warming.

The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office is confirming the remains of Dylan Redwine were found in a recent search conducted in Southwestern Colorado. A five-day search of Middle Mountain Road near Vallecito Lake turned up a number of items, including bones. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation determined those remains as belonging to Redwine. The 13-year old boy disappeared in mid-November while on a court-ordered Thanksgiving holiday visit with his father. The Sheriff’s Office says Redwine was picked up by his father at the Durango-La Plata County airport.

The Double Bind: Forest Treatment In The Age of Megafires

Jun 27, 2013

The devastating 2002 wildfire season generated public discussion about the need for treatments to fix our dangerously overgrown forests. A decade later, the Front Range has been hit with consecutive record-setting fire seasons, which has a lot of Colorado residents wondering why more of that treatment hasn’t happened. In this story that originally aired in April, KRCC’s Michelle Mercer looks into the status of forest treatment on the Front Range. 

Army to Deactivate Brigade at Fort Carson

Jun 26, 2013

The U.S. Army yesterday announced plans to deactivate one of Fort Carson’s four Brigade Combat Teams by 2017.  The move would affect nearly 4,000 soldiers, but as KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports, it’s not yet clear how many positions the Colorado Springs Army post would actually lose.

Waldo Canyon Fire Victims: Recovering without Rebuilding

Jun 25, 2013

The Black Forest Fire destroyed over 500 homes, leaving those homeowners with a difficult decision: should they rebuild? Back in April, KRCC’s Michelle Mercer talked to some Waldo Canyon Fire victims about the tough choices they’ve made.

Since this piece aired in April, rebuilding permits have trickled in: now 198 permits have been issued, or about 57% of the Waldo Canyon Fire victims.

• Main Flash Point: Living with Wildfire page with an interactive timeline.

Flash Point: Living with Wildfire

Jun 24, 2013

In the wake of last year’s destructive wildfires, Colorado’s residents, scientists, and government officials have been working hard to manage the ongoing threat. We’re not only mitigating our landscapes; we’re adapting our very understanding of what it means to reside within reach of mountain forests. Join KRCC News for “Flash Point,” a special series produced by Andrea Chalfin and Michelle Mercer on how wildfire is changing life in Colorado.

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